S02E11: The whys, wheres and hows of going live | Boagworld - Web & Digital Advice

Web & Digital Advice

Digital and web advice from Headscape and the addled brain of Paul Boag... tell me more

S02E11: The whys, wheres and hows of going live

If you thought building a website was hard, wait until you try to launch it. In this post we ask "when do you launch?" and "how do you launch without problems?"

What follows is the transcription of the latest show in season 2 of the boagworld.com podcast – “The whys, wheres and hows of going live”.

Transcription

Paul Boag: Hello boys and girls and welcome to boagworld.com.

Marcus Lillington: Mums and dads as well, surely.

Paul: No, only boys and girls – well, everybody’s a boy or a girl even if they’re a mum and dad. See, you’ve just interrupted me straight up. I do something slightly different and you just ruin it.

Hello and welcome to boagworld.com, the podcast for all those involved in designing, developing, and running websites on a daily basis. My name is Paul Boag and with me is miserable shit.

Marcus: What?

Paul: It’s my new name for you because you just ruin everything.

Marcus: But that suggested – I’m not miserable!

Paul: No, you’re not actually, you’re annoying.

Marcus: That’s a really poor choice of name.

Paul: Alright, pedantic arse, what about that?

Marcus: Now that I can go with.

Paul: So how are you today, Marcus? I don’t feel like I’ve seen you for ages.

Marcus: I’m feeling quite insulted currently.

Paul: You’re not, you liar!

Marcus: I’m alright; I’ve been tearing my office apart for the last couple of days.

Paul: Oh yeah how did your cleaning go?

Marcus: Well, it’s kind of nearly cleaned.

Paul: Right.

Marcus: But I’m still working my way through to filing cabinets. I’m not yet to the point where I’ve opened a paint pot.

Paul: Right.

Marcus: It’s mental. I’ve decided I’m going to have to throw the carpet away as well.

Paul: What have you done to the carpet?

Marcus: It’s just worn to threads where the bit where the chair moves up and down.

Paul: That’s why I have laminate floor in my office.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: Because it does do quite well, that does.

Marcus: Anyway, so I’ve been busy doing other stuff.

Paul: Busy, busy, busy – I’ve been busy too. I’ve launched the new Boagworld website.

Marcus: Yeah, I was looking at that.

Paul: It’s live and spangly.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: That’s a technical term.

Marcus: I saw Dan playing with it.

Paul: Yeah, see Dan – we’re going to come on to this later because I’ve launched it without there being responsive design on it.

Marcus: That’s what I was just going to test. Oh look it didn’t work.

Paul: No, it’s been turned off intentionally.

Marcus: Because if it goes horribly wrong…

Paul: I’m going to make up some bollocks in the show about why that is.

Marcus: Oh, okay. Do I have to kind of raise a flag at that point?

Paul: I’m sure you will. But now Dan is doing some work on it right now, and he’s going to write us a little post about his experiences, which I think is mainly going to be slagging off the way I’ve built the site, but that’s cool. I don’t mind that.

Marcus: Okay.

Paul: I like Dan. He’s so happy. I like happy people.

Marcus: He is; very positive.

Paul: Yeah, he’s not pedantic.

Marcus: I’m very positive and pedantic!

Paul: They’re not mutually exclusive.

Marcus: No, absolutely not. No, I’m very busy with work as well and I’ve just come back to work this morning and just got that kind of like, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Paul: Yeah, that horrible…

Marcus: I really don’t, it’s like, “Uhhh…” I don’t know where to start because last Friday I was desperately trying to get things done. I managed to do it all and I had this wonderful feeling of well being, like I’ve ticked all the boxes and then I’ve been off since last Friday and now I’ve got no idea who I am or what I’m doing.

Paul: You should have been at my WDC talk on last Friday.

Marcus: Oh, how did that go?

Paul: It went very well, yeah, yeah. It was fine. It was a good conference. Really nice bunch of people and I liked it. I did call it a budget conference when I was on the stage which might not have been very good. But it’s cheap, it’s good value for money.

Marcus: Cheap is well.

Paul: Well, it’s £50.00, 50 quid or 50-something quid, which for a conference is amazing. But what’s good about it is it then opens up to all these other people that wouldn’t normally be able to afford to come to conferences like, for example, freelancers that are just starting out or students and there were loads of that kind of audience and everything. I was talking about living as a freelancer or living as an entrepreneur and running your own business and all the rest of it and the stresses and strains that go alongside that. So part of what I was talking about was being organized and productivity and not worrying about all that you’ve got to do and that kind of stuff, which is why you should have been there.

Marcus: Don’t open your e-mail, that kind of thing.

Paul: Yes.

Marcus: Which doesn’t apply if you’re a salesperson.

Paul: It does.

Marcus: n’t.

Paul: I think it could work for you. I accept that it’s harder, but I think it could work for you. But, to be honest, a big part of your job is sending e-mails anyway, so even if you’re not checking e-mail the whole time you’re going to be sending it out, so you might as well be checking it.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: So, yeah. I kind of accept that. Some day somebody ought to invent an e-mail client that will send out but not receive in. I mean, I know that you can set that up to do that. But normally most e-mail clients if you send something out automatically checks and brings e-mail in at the same time. You need to be able to stop that.

Marcus: Yeah, but no because you’re having conversations with people via e-mail so therefore, you’re expecting a response.

Paul: Yeah, but e-mail’s not the right place to have immediate….anyway, let’s not have this conversation because you and me could be as far as organization/ways of working could not be more diametrically opposed, could we really?

Marcus: No.

Paul: The fact that it’s taken you how long to clean up your office just to get to the point of maybe one day being able to paint it is an indication of this difference.

Marcus: Well, it hasn’t been decorated for ten years, near as damnit.

Paul: See, that in itself is an indication.

Marcus: Yeah, but this is a small room full of enormous amounts of clutter.

Paul: Yeah, clutter! That’s my point.

Marcus: Alright, stuff.

Paul: I’m just saying we’re different, Marcus. And anyway, why are we discussing this on the podcast? Does anybody care?

Marcus: Yeah, they do. They like it when I’m pedantic.

Paul: Yes, they do. Unfortunately, otherwise I would have sacked you a long time ago. Oh, that’s so hysterical. It’s making that site live – it’s quite stressful making a site live, which is what we’re talking about today.

Marcus: That’s what we do as a company, Paul, so it shouldn’t be that stressful, should it?

Paul: Well, it is for me. I don’t do it. When was the last time I made a site live? I can’t remember. That would have been in the very early days of Headscape when I did that, before we got a techie in, I expect.

Marcus: Well I don’t actually make sites live but I’m involved in the process of it.

Paul: Yeah, but it’s that last – well, that’s what we’re talking about today, it’s actually a brilliant segue! God, I almost sound like a professional radio presenter, except not. Yeah, the bit that we’re going to talk about today is the kind of when do you launch? When is a website finished? That was the big problem I had with Boagworld, it’s like do I go live now or do I – well, I could just tweak this or just change that.

Marcus: You’ve got a load of existing content as well, so yeah. I mean, if it’s a brand new site you’ve probably set up from a content point of view, this is enough.

Paul: Yeah, but it’s not just the content that’s the problem. It’s things like the responsive design wasn’t done, so should I have launched the website or should I have waited until that was done?

Marcus: Do I need to put my alert up at this point?

Paul: I don’t know. Possibly. You know, and also I know for example there are elements of the typography that aren’t right.

Marcus: Really?

Paul: Yeah, there are loads of little things that probably you wouldn’t notice, but well let’s just get into the show.

Marcus: Yeah, alright.

Paul: So anyway, we’re looking at when to launch a website and how do you launch the website without problems, okay? So this is actually, believe it or not it’s the last in our series; last one in the series.

Marcus: Number 11, that feels like a series length.

Paul: No it doesn’t. 12 is series length.

Marcus: Well sometimes it’s five or…

Paul: No, TV, TV it’s either six, 12, 22, or 24.

Marcus: Or three.

Paul: When is it three?

Marcus: Sherlock Holmes, BBC. Best thing on TV ever.

Paul: It was pretty good, actually, I have to say. I wouldn’t say best thing ever.

Marcus: They showed repeats of them back a month or so ago. I thought, “Ooh, a new series coming out.”

And they finished it by saying, “And the new series will be out next year.” So I threw something at the tele.

Paul: Really? Not out until next year?

Marcus: Next year.

Paul: But they’ve been already advertising it.

Marcus: Bastards. Anyway, so therefore.

Paul: It’s still not as bad as American TV where it wouldn’t have made a second season because they would have broadcast it at 3:00 a.m. and been disappointed in the ratings and taken it off like Firefly – not bitter. Or like Caprica – not bitter. Like V – not bitter. And so the list goes on.

Marcus: Which is the one I like that they didn’t do. None of those. I started watching Caprica and thought, “Ehh.”

Paul: Yeah, Caprica improved. That’s it, they don’t give…

Marcus: Smash Forward.

Paul: Yes.

Marcus: That was good-ish.

Paul: Yes! Got cancelled. They don’t give series enough time to really find their feet and get going. This is yet another tangent.

Marcus: It’s the last show, let’s just go, “Wooo..” you know.

Paul: So anyway, 11 episodes in this season. But we will be coming back, obviously. We’ve got a new season, and I’ll tell you a bit more about that at the end of the show.

Marcus: Cool.

Paul: So we’ve done 10 shows so far where we’ve looked at every aspect of the web design process and so now we come to the moment of truth, which is making the site live. Unfortunately when it came to boagworld I have one tricky question to answer which is the one that I’ve already mentioned which is when is the site done? Have I finished yet?

Marcus: It never is, is it?

Paul: Well no, I don’t think it is. And I think this is one of the hardest questions to answer in web design. You know, when do you make a site go live? And I think it’s hard to answer for several reasons. First, your website’s never going to be perfect. You know, no matter how hard you try there will always be things that can be improved, whether it’s minor tweaks to typography or rewriting previous content, there’s always something that’s going to be changed.

Marcus: How often do you rewrite previous content?

Paul: What I’ve had to do with boagworld is Cath does it, actually, because I’m a lazy ass. Are you noticing the trend here? There’s Dan doing the responsive design, Cath checking all the content…

Marcus: Delegation, Paul. It’s very important.

Paul: I’m good management. And Lee’s been doing some stuff, what’s Lee been doing? Oh, the forum. Yes. So overall I do very little. But no with content, when Cath was going through it there was a lot of stuff. She went and looked, was going through it really to look and see if the design breaks on any of these pages.

Marcus: Oh, I see. Right, yeah.

Paul: But there were also a lot of things where links were broken or videos weren’t working or whatever else and all that needed to be pruned and sorted out.

Marcus: Makes sense.

Paul: She did amazingly efficiently, if at the last minute as is my wife’s want. She’ll never listen to this.

Marcus: No, guarantee.

Paul: Nobody will Tweet it.

Marcus: Good point.

Paul: I just won’t say her Twitter id.

Marcus: It wouldn’t take a lot to work it out, would it?

Paul: No, it wouldn’t really. Hee hee hee hee, I love it. So there’s always going to be stuff that needs to be improved, that’s what we were talking about. Also, I think the problem is further exasperated by the phenomenal speed at which things change online. When you start a project you may be implementing best practice, however by the time the site comes to launch that best practice may already have changed and your site will be left behind. It feels like there are constantly moving goal posts and so you’re always going to feel slightly dissatisfied with your site, or that somehow you’re not ready to launch.

I mean a great example of that was EDF where when we started that project things like responsive and adaptive design didn’t exist, but by the time we got near launch suddenly people were beginning to talk about it and so we kind of crow bared it in at the end even though it wasn’t really part of the scope, just because we wanted to do it. And there’s always something like that and you’re always going, “Oh, well perhaps if I hold off for a bit longer I can do this, that, and the other.”

Marcus: That’s like the new iPhone, isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah, we’ll wait for the next one.

Marcus: iPad three, that’s the next thing isn’t it?

Paul: Yeah. iPads, yes. I’m already saving up for that. I want it because it’s going to have retina display, at least it should do, I hope, maybe.

Marcus: You don’t know.

Paul: I don’t know. Anyway, I’m reading Steve Jobs’ biography, there’s a tangent of a tangent.

Marcus: He wasn’t a particularly nice person was he, let’s be honest.

Paul: No, not really. But it makes a good biography as a result.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: And he was a complex person. It’s not that he wasn’t nice, he wasn’t nasty, he was just a bit neurotic really, I think.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: It’s good, it’s a good biography. Worth reading. Anyway, so the other factor that leads to dissatisfaction and a desire to put off launch is the amount of time we spend pouring over projects. We all know what it feels like, if you’ve been working on something for a long period of time we naturally become dissatisfied with the result if we’ve been working on a project too long and we end up only seeing the problems.

Marcus: Yeah, we get bored with it.

Paul: Yeah, and it doesn’t have that impact to you anymore. So all of these factors make me and I think everybody else naturally hesitant to commit ourselves to going live. However I think it’s important to remember two things. First, until you put the website in front of real users it’s impossible really know whether it’s ready or not is the long and the short of it. You can do usability testing, all of it you want, but there’s nothing quite like putting it in front of other people, many people, to get a sense of whether it’s working or not.

Second thing is, and I think this is a really important one especially if you come from a marketer background and you’re used to doing a lot of you know, brochures and that kind of stuff. The web is not print. You don’t send it to the printer and then that’s it, it can never be changed ever again. You can make a website live and then you can tweak and change it as much as you want once it’s live. And I was having exactly this conversation this morning with Pete about one of our clients. We built the website and they started to go, “Ooh, ooh, yeah, but couldn’t we just improve it by doing this, that, and the other.”

No, make it live and then let’s look at it afterwards. It’s really strange that we have this fear of launching our websites too soon.

Marcus: It’s not that strange though, is it? I think you want to make it as best as it possibly can be so that people go, “Oooh” when you’ve done it. And that’s the same as if you did a bit of print or any piece of work, an essay.

Paul: Yeah, I mean but…

Marcus: Is it really done?

Paul: Yes.

Marcus: Is it as best as it can be?

Paul: Yes. I think a lot of people, it’s like why does it need to be as best as it can be?

Marcus: Human nature, I guess. That’s what I’m referring to.

Paul: Yeah. And I’m not saying you should bodge it.

Marcus: Any old shit.

Paul: I think a big part, to be honest, is that people believe in this adage of you only get one opportunity to make a first impression, so you want to have this big wow moment when people come.

Marcus: Yeah, you don’t want it to break horribly for the thing you missed.

Paul: Yes, exactly. And I think we fear that new users will arrive and our site will have a terrible experience and never return again. And that’s true, users do do that. But I think you need to ask yourself what constitutes a terrible experience? I think as long as your website is usable and accessible the majority of users will be satisfied, right? Admittedly they might not be blown away.

Marcus: Well it is better than the previous version.

Paul: Ah, there we go. There we go and that, in my opinion, is the key to the whole thing.

Marcus: Right.

Paul: When we start using this adage like, “You only get one chance to make a first impression,” I think most of the time we’re thinking about our peers when we say that. Competition or other people internally. People that are going to be overly critical, more than the normal user would be. Certainly I know for example, boagworld, there’s a lot wrong with the new boagworld site. I can see there are issues with typography, layout, browser compatibility, not to mention the lack of responsive design that hopefully by the time this comes out, there will be responsive design.

Although, I know none of these issues would stop a user returning, they still worry me because I know other web designers will make judgments on this type of thing. So I’m not suggesting that we should ignore our peers’ opinions or that they aren’t important, however I don’t think that should hold us back from launching. And you’re right; you’ve got to ask one simple question: Is the new website better than the old one? If the answer to this question is yes than I see there’s no reason to hold back from going live.

So my conclusion with Boagworld, okay it didn’t have responsive design. Okay, it does have the odd issue here and there, but it’s still a hell of a lot better than what was there before, so in my opinion let’s go ahead and make that live. You know, if the new website is better it seems a no brainer to launch it and to get it out there. Not only will users appreciate the improved site, you can also start to generate some return on the investment you’ve made to build it.

Marcus: Yeah, my problem with the old site was the search didn’t work very well.

Paul: Yeah, but have you tried the new one?

Marcus: I haven’t tried the new search, no.

Paul: Right. It’s much better.

Marcus: Cool.

Paul: I still want to tweak the search results page, but it’s certainly better than the old one.

Marcus: I’ll have to play now.

Paul: There you go, keep yourself entertained as long as you don’t complain about it. So the earlier your website launches the sooner you can start reaping the rewards, basically. But that’s not the only benefit I think of launching earlier. Take, for example, the boagworld website. Launching the new site has unsurprisingly generated considerable interest – publicity, I guess. However, because the current site lacks responsive design, I actually, which it will probably be implemented by the time you hear this, it’s actually presented me with an opportunity. Instead of having one chance to generate interesting in the website I now have two.

Marcus: Much better, Paul.

Paul: Is it? The search…

Marcus: Yes, yes.

Paul: Excellent. I just want to improve the search results design as much because I think it was a bit of a rushed page, that one. But anyway, yes, so I’ve now got two chances. When the site initially launches and then again when I implement responsive design. I think launching early and within complete functionality has basically enabled us to get multiple marketing opportunities, multiple chances to go back to people and say, “Hey, check out my site.” So it was, “Hey, check out my site, it’s all new and spangly.” And then it was, “Hey, check out the responsiveness of my site.” So, all good stuff.

Finally, launching early gives us an unprecedented opportunity to gather user feedback. Although user testing is incredibly helpful during the development process, nothing beats having large numbers of real users interacting with your site. This gives you an opportunity to fix issues and avoid spending money on elements that users don’t want. So for example, I’ve had some ideas for the site that I haven’t implemented because I want to see whether users actually are requesting them or whether they even want them if that makes sense.

Marcus: I assume that feedback has all been massively complimentary.

Paul: It has, actually but that in itself is quite an interesting thing because basically yeah, I’m just trying to think how to explain this. When it comes to testing I think you need to be a little bit hesitant about the kind of feedback that you receive and how you address that feedback. So for example, I think the comments you get over the first couple of weeks can be very reactionary and not kind of a good indication of how effective or otherwise the site is. You know, look at Facebook whenever they update. Everybody moans about it and starts pages with ten million likes of “We hate the new Facebook design” or whatever. I think users often react negatively towards a new design because they don’t like change and it’s important to allow them time to adjust before reacting to suggestions.

However, equally I think there’s a problem with positive feedback.

Marcus: Yeah. This goes back; it’s similar to the Brendan Doorsgate thing.

Paul: Yes.

Marcus: When all of your mates go, “Oh wow, it’s fantastic.”

Paul: Yes, absolutely. But I think it goes a little further even than that, so sometimes people can be wowed by the new design, the impact of the new design.

Marcus: Yeah, when actually it’s rubbish and completely unuseable.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: I can’t use it so…

Paul: So I think you just need to be a little bit careful and give people time to kind of bed in before you start taking their comments and feedback too seriously.

Marcus: Sure.

Paul: Anyway, I’ve lost my place now because you made me go out on a complete tangent.

Marcus: I think you need to talk about browser testing and quality assurance.

Paul: Do I? That’s good to know. So yes, so you’re thinking about launching your website and let’s be clear, it’s got to be better than what’s up there at the moment which means that your browser testing needs to be better than what was up there. You know, it needs to be more reliable and work across more browsers, etcetera. But the trouble is everybody hates testing websites across multiple browsers and operating systems. However, it is important and it can’t be left until the last minute and I’ve spent probably the last couple of weeks bug testing. Many web designers choose to do a cursory browser testing as they go along and then leave the detail testing until near launch and I think that’s perfectly acceptable but that can’t be used as an excuse for rushing the testing process at the end.

Once a site is complete there is a strong temptation to just launch. Nevertheless, it is prudent, it is prudent – be sensible people – to spend as long as possible checking the website on different browsers, operating systems, and devices.

Marcus: Absolutely. And it’s also easy these days with us with our nice, fancy Macs when looking at it in Safari 8.3 or whatever we’re at now.

Paul: Yes, but then you look at it in IE 7 on a PC and it looks shite.

Marcus: Which lots and lots and lots and lots of people still use.

Paul: Except not on Boagworld.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: So that’s fine.

Marcus: But IE 8 they will.

Paul: Yes, and I spent a long time fighting with IE 8. There’s a great tool, I found out about it on Friday when I was at the web developer’s conference with Dan, it was Dan I think who told me about it. Was it Dan or Keir? I can’t remember, anyway.

Marcus: Yeah, you sent e-mail around and I thought, “Yeah that looks good.”

Paul: Yeah, Browser Stack it’s called and basically what it does is it’s a web application that allows you to remotely connect to various virtual, what was the proper word for it? I want to say virtual systems but that’s not right. When you use something on VMware or they call them something…virtual.

Marcus: Machines?

Paul: Virtual machines! That’s it, yes.

Marcus: So you can set up the different operating systems on different browsers.

Paul: Yeah, well they set it up and you just say, “I want Firefox, whatever.” And it connects you and you can test it, which is brilliant. Not that I’ve actually gotten to use that for Boagworld because I’d pretty much finished and I only found out about it on Friday.

Marcus: Okay.

Paul: But, sounds good. So it’s good practice to look at your website in as many browsers as possible. But that doesn’t mean, I think it’s important to say that it doesn’t mean you need to spend hours fixing your site to look perfect in every single one of those browsers you at it in. Although it’s desirable to make your content accessible in as broad a range of browsers as possible, you’ve got to think about return on investment. If only a handful of users are accessing your site in a certain browser, then the amount of time involved in fixing the site for that browser may not be justified.

So for example, if you take the case of Boagworld and you look at what I’ve done on that site, IE 697 they just get a really basic style sheet, lets you navigate around, but the amount of users is so miniscule that it wasn’t worth me doing anything other. IE 8 is another interesting one. So I’ve got one in twenty users use IE 8 on Boagworld, alright? So when it came to thinking about responsiveness and the way the website looks generally I wanted it to look as good as possible. But, it wasn’t responsive in IE 8.

Marcus: Right.

Paul: Alright, it wasn’t working. The scaling wasn’t working for some reason so it’s like, “Uh, do I invest time in sorting this out. One in twenty, that’s a reasonable number of people, it really should look…”

Marcus: Ah, this is your Tweeted faux pas. I remember this one.

Paul: Faux pas?

Marcus: Well, it was a bit of a faux pas.

Paul: Why, what did I say?

Marcus: I can’t remember exactly but basically, “Who cares about IE 8’s responsive design.”

Paul: Yes, because my logic was in my head…

Marcus: It’s only iPads.

Paul: Well no, no it’s a range of devices, but I didn’t know of any devices that ran on IE 8 other than desktops. But then people rightly pointed out, well some people might be running low resolutions and so would need the responsive design. Fair enough, I thought. And I said, “Ah, do I fix it, do I fix it, I don’t know what to do.”

Then Amber, who’s one of the people that I follow on Twitter said, “Have you looked at your stats and saw that people actually are running at low resolution?” Went and looked at the last year’s stats and not one user was running less than 1024×768. Now okay, it’s possible they’re not running their browser full screen, but generally that felt like enough not to justify making the design responsive in IE 8. It wasn’t worth the effort to get it working.

Marcus: Yeah, fair enough.

Paul: So I decided I wasn’t going to bother. So that’s what I mean by kind of thinking about the return on investment and thinking about what you’re doing. Yes, make it accessible on all of them but it doesn’t need to have all the bells and whistles. And I think this demonstrates why analytics is so important in browser testing. Looking at your analytics can save you a lot of time fixing particular issues in different browsers. Once you look to your analytics it becomes a matter of weighing out the time involved in fixing a bug, the number of users who will encounter the bug, and the bug’s severity. And if you compare those different factors it will make it pretty clear whether it needs fixing or not.

Anyway, in many cases it’s simply a matter of even if it does need fixing you can put that fix off until after launch. It doesn’t need to all be perfect, which I think I’ve kind of driven home that point now.

Marcus: Yes, just do it.

Paul: I sound like a budget person and I’m really not. It’s about getting the most money back, getting the best, not necessarily money, but the best return in whatever form that is from your website as soon as possible.

Alright, let’s talk about the moment of flipping the switch and making your site live. I hate that bit. I hate it with a passion. Anyway, I’m not going to talk about this in any great depth because Andy Witz has already written an excellent prelaunch checklist with our website.

Marcus: Alright.

Paul: So if you go to the show notes for this show with is boagworld.com/season/2/so2e11. Something like that.

Marcus: Yeah, hyphen the 11 I would have thought.

Paul: No, there’s no hyphen in it. I really should know this, shouldn’t I . But it’s the end of the series so it’s not worth finding out now, is it? So anyway, if you go to the show notes you’ll find it. If you just go to boagworld/podcasts then you’ll get to all the episodes and you can find this episode and then from there you can find the prelaunch checklist. Or, use the wonderful new search facility.

Marcus: Yes, which is great. You can actually find things now, which it didn’t used to.

Paul: Yes, which is always good. It’s really dumb, the WordPress search, it returns results chronologically rather than in terms of relevance.

Marcus: Ahh.

Paul: How dumb is that? So I’ll fix that. I did talk about the tool I use a couple of shows back, I can’t remember what it was called now.

Anyway, so I’m not going to go into great depth because of that checklist, but what I want to do is share a couple of lessons I’ve learned from launching Boagworld because I hate launching websites. Have I said that?

Marcus: Once or twice.

Paul: I hate it, I hate it. And normally I let other people do it, but when it comes to Boagworld basically nobody would help me.

Marcus: Quite right.

Paul: I tried to get other people to help me and they wouldn’t, so I was on my own. Fortunately I did at least one thing right, which was good, which is that I had my development copy of the site on the same server as the live one.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: So instead of working on the local copy I worked on the version at hello.boagworld.com, which is gone now so there’s no point in looking it up. Having the website hosted on the same environment made my life so much easier because when it came to coming live it was a matter of just turning off one site and turning on the other.

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: I didn’t have to worry about any last minute configuration, problems with the server, or anything like that. It just worked. Not that everything went entirely smoothly; I managed to screw it up in a couple of areas. One was Fontdeck for my typography because I had that configured and set up for hello.boagworld.com instead of for the live site. And then also I used Hovercards, Twitter Hovercards and Tweet Box where you can Tweet from within the website and the API key was wrong on that. So thinking about those kinds of things is obviously fairly important. However, really those are fairly minor issues and they immediately went on my post launch fix list, which have now been fixed.

So that’s basically it. But I think it’s really important to remember that when you make a website live that’s not an opportunity to sit back and congratulate oneself on a job well done. In reality launching a website is just the beginning of the process and not the end. For a start, I’ve still got my list of fixes to address. I’ve done most of them, but I still have a few more. After that I’ve got my list of ideas for improving the website. Let’s face it, that second list hopefully will never get completed as I continually add more ideas to it over time as I learn more about how users interact with the site and all the rest of it.

Marcus: And study your analytics.

Paul: And all of that.

Marcus: Yes.

Paul: Good stuff, yeah.

Marcus: And sort your segments out.

Paul: I have, I’ve done that.

Marcus: Yeah, really?

Paul: I’m a good boy, yeah.

Marcus: Oh, okay.

Paul: I’m not sure it’s working entirely as I want it, but I’ve certainly done what we talked about in the last show. So yeah, so there’s all that kind of stuff. And while working on my lists I’m also going to be gathering feedback about the website, which is a crucial stage in the process. I’ve already talked about how important that is and the pros and cons of reacting on that too soon. Basically my rule of thumb: Wait for a couple of weeks to identify and tackle any major issues. Just let the whole thing bed in before you start jumping on people’s feedback.

Also, another reason to wait a couple of weeks is to wait before you start publicizing your website too heavily. So for example, it’s going to be a couple of weeks before this show comes out, and that’s really when I’m going to start pushing the website and saying, “Hey, look at what I’ve done.” The reason I’m waiting is because it gives an opportunity to kind of get rid of any issues or lingering stuff. It’s a great temptation isn’t it when you launch a website to tell the world about it, but my experience is that it can cause problems. A better approach is to do a soft launch and wait a couple of weeks before you begin promotion.

Nothing is more embarrassing than launching a high profile site and shouting to the world about it when it’s still full of bugs and problems.

Marcus: Yep.

Paul: So there is a little bit of advice about the process of launching your website, when to do it, how to do it, how not to look like an idiot. But that’s it.

Marcus: So how have you enjoyed designing your new website?

Paul: I have, I’ve really enjoyed it actually. It’s been a really, I needed to do it. Because I don’t design and build stuff on a daily basis anymore, it was just really important for me to get my hands dirty, understand what’s going on, and see if I can still do it. And it was quite satisfying that I still can and that I can still keep up with the latest techniques and stuff. It’s not perfect, my code is not as good as Dan’s, as I’m sure he’ll tell you when he writes his first responsive design post. But then his blogs won’t be as good as mine, maybe. I don’t know.

Marcus: Who knows on that one.

Paul: Brilliant writer in which case I hate him. So yeah, it’s gone really, really well. I think I’m going to try and every six months, every year have a little project that I build, even if it’s my church’s website or something just to keep my hands in and know I’m not doing stroke the toad’s website.

Marcus: No, no. No need there.

Paul: It’s already perfect, isn’t it?

Marcus: It’s alright.

Paul: Does the job, doesn’t it?

Marcus: Exactly, yeah.

Paul: I think there can be a lot of snobbery about these things. Your website is perfectly adequate

Marcus: What, what’s wrong with it?

Paul: It’s fine.

Marcus: No, come on. I can read between the lines.

Paul: I can’t even remember what it looks like.

Marcus: It’s just a WordPress site.

Paul: Is it really?

Marcus: It’s a Bog Standard WordPress site with a few stories, gigs, and songs. That’s it.

Paul: Is it pretty?

Marcus: Little bit of fancy drop downery underneath our names, which Anna did.

Paul: Did Anna design it? You designed it.

Marcus: With me.

Paul: Yeah, you made her do stuff didn’t you?

Marcus: It’s alright.

Paul: It does the job doesn’t it.

Marcus: Exactly.

Paul: strokethetoad.com, it’s not pretty but it is worth looking at. My word, I think what’s most disturbing about it is it looks like a lineup.

Marcus: Yeah, fair enough.

Paul: You look like a bunch of criminals. Actually, to be fair you look least like a criminal out of them all. Number two, the drummer, looks like a serial killer.

Marcus: Well, he is a serial killer, actually.

Paul: And Phil Hart, number three, four in the lineup…

Marcus: My best mate.

Paul: He looks like a kind of…

Marcus: Another serial killer.

Paul: Who’s the guy that did the great train robbery? Ronnie Biggs.

Marcus: Ronnie Biggs.

Paul: Yeah, he looks like that kind of character. No, I’m not saying he looks like him, I’m just saying he’s that kind of east end mafia kind of mobster type.

Marcus: Yeah I suppose, yeah.

Paul: This is not at all fun if you can’t see it.

Marcus: strokethetoad.com

Paul: Garreth looks like a petty criminal. I’m thinking shoplifter maybe, that type.

Marcus: If you click on our names you get lots of silly words come up.

Paul: A sparkly eyed teddy bear of a man who manages to play guitar like ten teddy bears.

Marcus: It’s just lots of stupid.

Paul: Phil loves his feet but we all love the rest of him

Marcus: Awww.

Paul: Okay, that’s just quite weird. That was Marcus’s description if you haven’t guessed. Anyway, so that’s it.

Marcus: We’ve moved off onto a – this really is a tangent. Yeah, we’re playing on December 3rd. There you go.

Paul: There you go. That’s something Christmasy. So where are you playing?

Marcus: At the The Lion Brewery, it’s all on the website.

Paul: Where is that?

Marcus: It’s in, ooh is that in Hampshire or Surrey? It’s on the Hampshire/Surrey border. It’s near Aldershot.

Paul: I can’t be bothered to travel that far for you.

Marcus: Good.

Paul: I would like to see you play in a gig at one point, it would be quite cool.

Marcus: Yeah. It’s a good night out, that one. But yeah, if you can’t be bothered to fair enough.

Paul: I might bother. Right, anyway, so that brings us to the end of this season. I hope you found it useful. I thought it was a bit different, doing a case study of a website rebuild. I don’t think anyone else has done that as a podcast.

Marcus: I think the only thing that I’ve missed from this series is us commenting on what’s been happening in the world.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: There’s been no news, which I always enjoyed doing. But other than that I think it’s a good subject. Real things rather than stuff that you might want to talk about and you don’t really know. It had some application.

Paul: Exactly. Next season is going to be interesting. Have I even told you what we’re doing next season? I don’t think I have.

Marcus: Probably but I’ve forgotten.

Paul: So, we’re going to kick off in April, I’m hoping. And basically it’s going to be a book this time, like the last season. We’re going to have a book accompanying it and we’re going to look at the working relationship between web designers and their clients and how the two work together.

I’ve discovered we’re a bit special at Headscape and I’m not talking special needs special. We’re unusual in the way we do things. From going to conferences and speaking to other web designers, we have a very different relationship with our clients than most web design agencies. We have this very kind of close, collaborative relationship of pushing a lot backwards and forwards between the client and we see producing and launching websites as a very collaborative interactive process where they’re putting as much into it as we do, really.

While a lot of other web design agencies just kind of go off, do their thing, and then present it and Twitter and conferences is just full of people slagging off clients and there’s something I think quite fundamentally broken about how most people have that relationship between the client and the web designer. So that is what I want to tackle next season and look at our way of working with clients, basically.

Marcus: Yeah, which I think is something we’ve been kind of evolving for ten years now.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: And it’s still not right.

Paul: No.

Marcus: And we’ve had some experiences in the last six months where we’ve thought, “Ooh, hang on. That wasn’t quite the right way of approaching that.” So it’s a good thing to talk about. Because I think you’re right, I think we’re quite advanced in our desire to want to make the relationship work.

Paul: Yeah.

Marcus: That’s what it’s about and there’s a financial reason for doing that.

Paul: Yeah, yeah.

Marcus: But we’re still learning.

Paul: Yeah, I’m going to write out what we’ve done so far, but I mean absolutely. We still have projects that go bad and relationships that go bad.

Marcus: I think the real tricky part of this is how much – and you don’t know – is how much of an eye for design or an eye for content, that kind of thing, does client A have compared to client B? And you never know. And some of them are brilliant and others aren’t and both want the same amount of say. And that’s the next step for us.

Paul: And I also think to some degree that the other area we need to improve on – I’m doing this next season, we’ll wrap up the show in a minute. Hopefully give people a taste.

The other thing I think we need to improve on is that initial meeting with a client of finding clients that fit us and we fit them. I think sometimes we accept clients where we should have walked away. Not because they were rubbish, but just because we weren’t the right fit for them. I can think of one, and we always know as well, that’s the thing. I mean, you’ve said haven’t you, you kind of get this gut reaction. And yet we don’t always follow through on that, and I think that’s another area we can learn.

Marcus: Definitely.

Paul: And that is part of it, part of it is going, “Well, our personalities are not going to meet. We probably ought not work together.”

Marcus: Yeah.

Paul: But most cases I think you can make the relationship work and I think there’s a lot that we can share on that. I think we’re pretty good at it, to be honest.

Marcus: Yes, so do I.

Paul: I think we’ve got something to say on that, so let’s talk about that next season.

Marcus: Perfect.

Paul: Have you got what – this better be a pretty impressive joke to end with.

Marcus: No.

Paul: You didn’t even know it was the last episode today, did you?

Marcus: No. I’m having to go back to my list. No, I’ve had a couple of great jokes recently that people have sent to me. This is my list of jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe. I quite like this one, this is Tim Key. “Drive thru McDonald’s was more expensive than I thought, particularly once you’ve hired the car.”

That’s quite good, isn’t it?

Paul: That is quite funny. It’ll do, it’ll do.

Marcus: Well, a proper comedian said that.

Paul: Proper, yeah.

Marcus: A real one.

Paul: Yeah, I expect they said it better.

Marcus: Of course they did.

Paul: You can’t be good at everything?

Marcus: No.

Paul: You know your giftings.

Marcus: My giftings? Is that a word?

Paul: Oh, it’s Christian, actually. I apologize profusely. Yeah, you don’t have abilities, you have gifts. Yeah, it’s pretentious ass, ignore it.

Alright, well thank you very much. And on that bombshell of me calling Christianity pretentious ass we shall finish this week’s show. Thank you very much for listening and we will return in April so don’t go away. And also, keep checking the website because obviously I’m going to be blogging a lot in the mean time so all good stuff. And the forum too. Shall I finish this show or should I just keep…Oh, and Twitter. Oh, and Audio Booze as well, I’ll keep doing the Audio Booze. Please don’t leave me.

Marcus: Please don’t leave me alone.

Become a web expert with our newsletter

Receive invaluable advice every three weeks and get two free video presentations for subscribing. You can unsubscribe in one click.

Blog Updates

You can follow all my posts by subscribing to my RSS feed or signing up to my email newsletter above.

Podcast Updates

Subscribe to the podcast via itunes or RSS. You can also subscribe to my quick tips via itunes and RSS too.

Social Updates

I am completely addicted to Twitter so try following me there. I also have a Facebook page which contains considerably less waffle.